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Sarrazin's Truths: Political Correctness Is Silencing an Important Debate

A Commentary by Matthias Matussek

German central banker Thilo Sarrazin is being pilloried over his polemic chastising of Muslims, but there are a few things his critics clearly fail to understand. You can't cast away what the man embodies: The anger of a German people who are tired of being cursed at when they offer to help foreigners to integrate.

Thilo Sarrazin: Zoom
dpa

Thilo Sarrazin:

Nothing is as it used to be. In this season of public outrage, the case of Thilo Sarrazin has grown far bigger than Sarrazin. It's much bigger than the man or the Islam-critical book he wrote.

The Sarrazin case is also a Merkel case, a case for his party, the center-left Social Democrats, and for the German political and media establishment. Sarrazin has become code for the outrage over how the politically correct branch of Germany's consensus-based society have dispatched their stewards to escort this unsettling heckler to the door. On their way, they seem to be trying to teach him a lesson, as well: "We will beat tolerance into you."

Sarrazin isn't telegenic and he often gets tangled up in statistics. When it comes to styling, he's at a loss -- he is unkempt when he appears on the myriad talkshows that keep our entertainment society going. He slips on one banana peel of political correctness after another, opening himself to attack with his statements about genetics. But his findings on the failed integration of Turkish and Arab immigrants are beyond any doubt.

Sarrazin has been forced out of the Bundesbank. The SPD wants to kick him out of the party, too. Invitations previously extended to Sarrazin are being withdrawn. The culture page editors at the German weekly Die Zeit are crying foul and the editors at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung are damning Sarrazin for passages he didn't even write.

Technicians of Exclusion

But what all these technicians of exclusion fail to see is that you cannot cast away the very thing that Sarrazin embodies: the anger of people who are sick and tired -- after putting a long and arduous process of Enlightenment behind them -- of being confronted with pre-Enlightenment elements that are returning to the center of our society. They are sick of being cursed or laughed at when they offer assistance with integration. And they are tired about reading about Islamist associations that have one degree of separation from terrorism, of honor killings, of death threats against cartoonists and filmmakers. They are horrified that "you Christian" has now become an insult on some school playgrounds. And they are angry that Western leaders are now being forced to fight for a woman in an Islamic country because she has been accused of adultery and is being threatened with stoning.

Strangely enough, a good number of our fellow Turkish citizens are more outraged by Sarrazin's book than they are about those things.

Should those Turkish immigrants fortunate enough to have exemplary careers not start exerting a bit of influence over their fellow immigrants and their neighborhoods, so that the Koran shows its gentler, more charitable face? Isn't it time for them to stand up and show their backing for plurality and freedom of expression?

That certainly wasn't the case recently when the Migration Board, an umbrella group for immigrant organizations in Berlin, spoke out successfully against a reading by Sarrazin during the International Literature Festival in the German capital. Bernd Scherer, who heads the House of World Cultures, the venue of the festival, buckled under the pressure and cancelled the event. Now the reading is to be held at another venue on Friday -- under police protection.

Protecting the Public from Poison and Temptation

But as a society, we seem content with the fact that our politicians, opportunistic as they have become, are struggling under the same weight. And as far as the politically correct media is concerned, it hardly functions any longer.

Until now, the media was dominated by two archetypes: There was the patronizing governess style, which assumes the public is ignorant and, without being asked to do so, seeks to protect it from poison and temptation. Or there is the energetic denouncing approach, which also assumes the public is dim and focuses on revealing secrets: Mr. Teacher, I've noticed a brown spot, you can't see it with the naked eye, but because I'm so smart I was able to spot it.

Klaus von Dohnanyi, who is to defend Sarrazin as the SPD seeks to expel him, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper how Germany was overshadowed by its Holocaust history and how a culture had developed whereby anyone saying the words "gene" or "Jew" was automatically considered suspect.

He is right to complain that we shy away from debates which "are commonplace in other countries." Among those is the discussion that "specific ethnic groups" share specific characteristics.

Simply Don't Get It

Debates about identity and cultural dominance are ubiquitous in an increasingly globalized world -- in the United States just as in the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands or Denmark. Such a debate doesn't exclude cosmopolitanism in the slightest. It merely represents an insistence on maintaining traditions and values. Religion is one of them and it is not something that people will let go of lightly.

These are the passages of Sarrazin's book that I find most interesting. Those which melancholically reflect that Germans are not only demographically working towards their own demise, but also that they are bidding farewell to their cultural and educational background. Whoever calls that racist simply doesn't get it.

But ever since the Sarrazin case, it is clear that intimidation from the politically correct thought police of the media and the threats they issue of casting people out of society no longer work. By now the public has a highly developed instinct for fairness.

The support Sarrazin has received demonstrates this. The Germans are learning. Maybe, one day, the country's newsrooms will catch up with where British colleagues have long been -- a place where debates can be conducted without blinders or language controls.

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1.
cghka 09/10/2010
Dear Mr. Matussek, you quite correctly noted that Dr. Sarrazin is being heavily criticised for his polemic statements. He spoke in public, using his position as member of the board at the Bundesbank and as member of the SPD. He is now being criticised publicly, and I can hardly call that being pilloried. I call that being upbraided. You are completely wrong in claiming that political correctness is silencing an important debate. It's not about political correctness, it's about veracity; both political and scientific. Dr. Sarrazin is no expert on genetics, no expert in cognitive psychology; he is a doctor in economics. I expect an academic in the field of economics to understand what statistics prove and do not prove - and not to use them to "prove" that Germany is dumbing down because of the influx of Turkish people, who, as he claims, are so prolific, quote: "The Turks are taking over Germany exactly as the Kosovars took over Kosovo: via a higher birth rate. I wouldn't mind if it were Jews from Eastern Europe with a 15 percent higher IQ than the German population." e.o.q. Asides from Dr. Sarrazin's slipshod use of statistics, his insinuation that Turkish people have inferior genes and are therefor as a people less intelligent justifiably earns him the label racist! If you do want to delve into a discussion pertinent to IQ and sociology: the change in the average IQ of a section of the population is known as Flynn-Effect. Sincerely Yours
2.
tleave2000 09/11/2010
The UK media is at least as bad as the German media for political correctness at the expense of truth. It's like journalists see their primary role as that of a shepherd, rather than as reporters of reality. It's patronising and an abuse of the trust that the public place in journalists.
3.
Inglenda2 09/11/2010
Poltical correctness has become a curse in nearly all European countries, not only in Germany. People are getting frightened to tell the truth, because someone else is almost bound to be offended. A whole list of names could be written, Such as Hohmann, Steinbach and Sarrazin, where just because a true statement has deliberately been taken to be offensive, insults start to pour, before the critics take the trouble to check their facts. "Give a dog a bad name," is easier than proving that something said is wrong.
4. Let Mr. Sarrazin speak
bsdetector 09/12/2010
Dear Mr. Matussek, I am a Turkish-American who has an older brother who moved to Germany in early seventies as a guest worker. I do not personally have the experience of living in Germany as a Turk, but I met quite a few Germans while visiting my brother and heard the experiences of my brother and his kids that I feel I can contribute to the debate. First of all, I am disappointed that Mr. Sarrazin was forced to leave. He needs to speak freely. It will help me clear up some questions I have had about German society. Let me explain: back in 1987 I was a summer fellow at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, and I met a German student who asked me, with a smirky smile on his face, why all the Turks he sees in Germany were cleaning the floors. I did not know that was the case and I did not know the answer. Regardless, I was happy to learn from Mr. Sarrazin that the brothers and sisters with whom I share my inferior genes upgraded their skills to becoming grocery store and doner kebap restaurant owners. Now, World Bank ranks Turkey 15th in terms of GDP, so you would think that you probably need people with more than just grocery store and doner restaurant running skills to have that kind of economy, especially if you are an economist like Mr. Sarrazin, but hey, what do I know, I am just a Turk. Then, while visiting my guest worker brother in Bonn in late 80s, I met a very interesting man, with whom I became close friends. No gay stuff, just friends, mind you? I am emphasizing this, because another German guy I met asked me whether it was common to be gay among Turkish men. Not that there is anything wrong with being gay, but I must say I was slightly puzzled by the question, so I wanted to clarify. Now back to my German friend: pretty intellectual person, an editor who lives in Cologne with books wall to wall at his home. I was working on my PhD thesis on Quantum Chromodynamics at an American University (Rutgers) at the time, so when he asked me what I was doing and heard what I said, his response was, "I never thought a Turkish person would be interested in Quantum Physics". Now, I am looking for answers on why a reasonable (read leftist) intellectual German person thinks that people of a certain nationality would not be capable of certain things, but I am clueless, and I am hoping that this debate would clarify that, so let Sarrazin speak. Before I finish, I should point out that my guest worker brother had a son born in Germany. This son figured out that groceries was not the right industry for him and he rather eat doner kebap than make and sell it, so he decided to go to Law school. Now, he is practicing law in Bonn in his own office. His closest friends are German, so you may think he is what Sarrazin considers an integrated Turk. What he tells me is that the Germans he meets still asks him when he is going back home. I am wondering, if it is ever possible that German street will accept an integrated Turk as one of his own fellow country men, and if so, what will take for it? So, let Sarrazin speak.
5.
BTraven 09/13/2010
It’s a pity that Matussek removed the part where he attacked the “juste-millieu” to which in his opinion belongs the man (heckler) who was forced to leave the reading because I focused on it when it was discussed in the German forum. Nevertheless there are still many issues I do not agree with him so, for example, the one which starts just after the “Technicians of Exclusions” headline where he states that people “are sick and tired - after putting a long and arduous process of Enlightenment behind them – of being confronted with pre-Enlightenment elements.” That sounds as if the Enlightenment had just been successfully implemented 20 years ago. What does he mean? The sexual revolution? The fight for equal opportunities for women? But that were matters that had nothing to do with the Enlightenment. A further aspect is the alleged lack of influence of Turks who are quite successful on those who do not want to integrate into Germany (by the way I do not think that it is measurable). What should they do? Pressurize those who do not send their children to school? A lot of them were invented to political chats where Sarrazin’s book was discussed. Most of them refused to criticise their countryman openly. I think they were right since it would only split them, with the consequence of being not accepted anymore by those who are more traditional.
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